Shopping Organic: The Taste Test

As it’s Organic Fortnight, I have swapped some of my grocery purchases for organic ones. I wanted to find out if they are more expensive than non-organic versions and how the quality compares. Last week I outlined the prices and choices on offer in my local Waitrose. Since then, I’ve been busy sampling my purchases below:

Waitrose organic spaghetti 99p

Flahavan porridge oats £1.99

Good Earth tea £2.65

Yeo Valley fruity yoghurts 82p (special offer)

Waitrose organic king prawns £3.99

Waitrose organic butter £1.19

Village Bakery organic chocolate brownies £1.39

Duchy Originals mince £2.24 (special offer)

Duchy Originals milk £2.38

Total: £17.64

With the exception of the porridge and the cut-price mince, most items were more expensive than their non-organic competitors. But what about their taste, quality and eco credentials?

I cooked a meal using the king prawns and spaghetti. I found the spaghetti quicker to cook than the usual brand I buy. It was delicious but, to be honest, I didn’t notice any difference in taste from the non-organic king prawns and spaghetti. However, according to the packet, the prawns, sourced from Ecuador, were organically farmed with care for local communities and wildlife.

I ate the Flahavan porridge oats with the Duchy Original’s milk. I often eat porridge but this was really superior stuff and I will definitely buy it again. I’m not sure if the milk tastes hugely different from non-organic milk, although it was delicious in the porridge, but the price difference is so minor that I would buy it again too. Duchy’s Originals says its dairy cows graze on clover rich pastures. A small selection of West Country farmers, chosen for their high standards of animal welfare, produce the milk and Duchy’s donates money to the Prince of Wales’ Countryside Fund which supports rural communities.

The Duchy’s mince was something special. I used it in one of my (few) signature dishes – burritos. It’s a meal that relies on good quality mince. I have cooked it hundreds of times but I really noticed the difference on this occasion. The flavour of the mince and the lack of fat and gristle really came through. It was absolutely delicious. I would purchase this again, although, given the normal price of £9.98 per kg, I might wait until it’s on special offer. The packet states that it is produced from cattle reared on a diet rich in grass and forage. I was surprised not to have more information than this as I’d like to know where these cattle are from and who rears them.

I enjoyed the Yeo Valley yoghurts, although DJ said he found them a little more tart compared to the usual brand we buy. On the eco front, the pots and packaging were fully recyclable, the milk is from a West Country-based cooperative farm and the company claims its dairies are powered by green electricity. We could also taste the difference in quality of the Waitrose salted butter compared to our usual brand.

I felt particularly worthy drinking the Good Earth tea. These teabags are singlehandedly trying to save the planet. They are Fairtrade, organic, unbleached, GM free and farmed on a low impact basis. Again, I couldn’t detect any difference in taste between these and our normal brand. But it may be because we are fussy about tea and buy pricier teabags anyway.

The Village Bakery chocolate brownies were also a success story. They were organic, gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian and should have been fun free too by the sound of them, but they were amazing. I’m ashamed to admit I ended up eating all four of them myself…Sorry DJ. On the eco front, the packaging was made from recycled cardboard.

All in all, I was pleased with the quality of my purchases and their eco and fair trade credentials. I feel these working practices should be supported. What worries me is that the pricing still puts them out of reach of many consumers and this is something that needs to be tackled if organic produce is to be more accessible. I don’t feel I could afford to buy all of these products every week.

Later in the week the Soil Association will be answering your questions about what organic means, pricing and how they support organic farmers.

Can you taste the difference between organic and non-organic produce? Should we pay more for better quality, sustainable food? Leave a message and let me know.

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11 Responses to Shopping Organic: The Taste Test

  1. Christine says:

    You are absolutely right about people not being able to afford these products every week. In fact a lot of people can\’t afford them any week – that\’s me despite being vegetarian going on vegan which is a reasonably cheap way of living. With people being worried about their jobs and their wages, it’s most likely that there will be even less support for the time being too.

  2. Mary Enna says:

    Is Waitrose an economic place to shop? I\’d always thought of it as where you shop when you\’ve made it economically. I go to Lidle.

  3. Kerri says:

    I was doing some price comparisons today for ingredients for chutney (xmas present planning) and I was surprised to find that Waitrose actually came out cheaper for a number of ingredients…

  4. Piper says:

    I picked Waitrose to shop in for this organic fortnight experiment as it has a reputation of carrying many more organic products than its competitors, so I thought there would be more choice available. I shop in a variety of places, including Asda, but sometimes find Waitrose cheaper than my local Somerfield!

  5. Bill says:

    Any, & every supermarket could be much cheaper than they are. Their fust priority/duty is ter the shareholders, & the fat-cat "Board" members. They have also grown ter such idiotic large chains, of equaly grotesque sized "branches" in such a short timespan, all at our expense!Their entire Bogoff culture is an absolute con trick, aka sales engineering/propaganda, which Herrn Meinem General Goebels could be proud of.

  6. Pratab says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, I wish they\’d call it "Organically reared" or "Organically grown". From what I remember from my A-level chemistry& g.c.s.e biology classes. Anything that has Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, Nitrogen and is a plant or animal i.e. a living thing , is "Organic"Sorry, please ignore me, this is really a debate for another thread.

  7. Pratab says:

    … or "Organically farmed"

  8. Bill says:

    Hi there, Pratab!Spot on with that!I believe that your argument would also include such single cell "organism" as the Amoeba?

  9. Life track says:

    Organic is way better than artificial goods. I would like to taste some of your Organic recipes. I know that it’s really healthy and good.

  10. Jude says:

    With organic it is less about taste and more about what is not in it, ie chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, growth promoters etc. I feel there are some things where there is a taste difference, noticably carrots, chicken and apples.

    • piperterrett says:

      Hi Jude – you make a very good point. After all, that is what organic is all about. But I was curious as to whether it also made a difference to the taste and quality of certain products too and, like you, I think you can taste the difference with some products – definitely meat and milk.

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